The Authoritarian Heroes of Liberal Individualism

The U.S. has long been known as a society of contrasts in which seemingly irreconcilable tendencies find a way to coexist. Unbounded belief in modern science versus conservative religious convictions, sober pragmatism versus utopian aspirations, deep-seated distrust of state authority versus ardent patriotism are only some of the juxtapositions that characterize the social climate. Recently, this gallery of American contrasts has been supplemented by yet another striking phenomenon: as a nation that celebrates radically individualistic values more than any other Western country, and is, therefore, extremely sensitive toward restrictions of personal freedom, Americans have voted in a president who placed the erosion of basic rights for large parts of the population based upon their race or religion at the center of his campaign. Continue reading

Book Review: Whiteness on the Border: Mapping the U.S. Racial Imagination in Brown and White by Lee Bebout

The work of Arizona State Associate Professor, Lee Bebout, in Whiteness on the Border is certainly topical. To date, the current U.S. administration plans to build a multi-billion-dollar border wall between Mexico and the U.S., solidifying a line in the sand across which ‘Mexican chaos south of the border must not cross’ (63). Those Americans supporting such a project are likely influenced to varying degrees by the very stereotypes about which Bebout writes. He suggests that theirs ‘is a fear not of military invasion per se but of cultural and biological influence and takeover’ (69). Continue reading

Book review: A Short History of U.S. Interventions in Latin America and the Caribbean by Alan McPherson

In A Short History of U.S. Interventions, part of Wiley-Blackwell’s Viewpoints/Punto de Vista series, Alan McPherson analyses U.S. interventions in Latin America from the No Transfer resolution of 1811 through the present-day drug wars. McPherson argues that the foremost goal of U.S. policymakers was ‘political stability and political cultural change’ (4). Economic and other motivations certainly played a role, but he asserts that every intervention ‘harboured above all political motives’ (4). Continue reading

“[L]ittle difficulties will get to be great difficulties”: Joel Palmer and the Office of Indian Affairs in the Oregon Territory, 1853-56

Using primary sources from ‘Frontier Life’ - an Adam Matthew collection

The collection focuses on the letters and correspondence of Palmer (1810 – 1881), the superintendent of Indian affairs in the Oregon Territory, from 1853-57. He believed that, since white settlers had occupied the valley lands, the only means of saving the Indians was for the government to provide reservations and assistance for them, in order that they could become settled people[1]. Palmer was responsible establishing many reservations, negotiating nine secession treaties from tribes in the surrounding areas. ‘Frontier Life’ has a cross-section of correspondence and other texts relating to Palmer’s career. Continue reading

60 Seconds with BAAS 2017 Conference Organisers

The U.S. Studies Online 60 Seconds interview feature offers a short and informal introduction to a postgraduate, academic or non-academic specialist working in the American and Canadian Studies field or a related American and Canadian Studies association.
Dr. Lydia Plath and Dr. Gavan Lennon are the organisers of the 62nd Annual British Association for American Studies conference, to be held at Canterbury Christchurch University, 6-8 April, 2017. Continue reading

‘The Water-Cure Journal and Herald of Reform’: Understanding Hydropathy in Antebellum America

Using primary sources from ‘Popular Medicine’ - an Adam Matthew collection

A highlight of Adam Matthew’s ‘Popular Medicine’ collection is its rich repository of magazines and periodicals. These publications reveal the confluence of two important nineteenth century trends – the proliferation and democratisation of American print culture, and the development and diversification of American medicine and health reform. One of these periodicals was the Water-Cure Journal and Herald of Reform, the foremost publication of the hydropathy movement in the United States. Hydropathy, which advocated the internal and external application of water to the body as a means to promote health, happiness, and longevity, was one of several alternative medical practises which gained popularity in the antebellum United States. Continue reading

Most Viewed Posts of 2016

10) Film Review of Trumbo (2015) by Hannah Graves Working from Bruce Cook’s recently re-issued biography, Trumbo (2015) follows Communist Party member Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) from his appearance before HUAC in 1947 through his jailing, his years writing screenplays pseudonymously, and, finally, his blacklist-breaking accreditation as the writer of … Continue reading

Emily Dickinson and the Nineteenth-Century Women Poets: The Poetics and Politics of Reticence

When discussing nineteenth-century American women poets, the term ‘reticence’ has been used, almost exclusively, by critics since the 1980s, to refer to poetic strategies that resulted from ‘psychic conflict and anxiety’[1]: women’s literary articulation was suppressed by the patriarchal system, and society demanded reticence in writing by women (e.g. elimination of anger, sexual feelings, and ambition in their work). Continue reading

Night: Another Frontier in American Wilderness Studies?

In his groundbreaking book, At Day’s Close (2005), A. Roger Ekirch deftly reveals one of the significant differences between the pre- and post-industrial world: the overwhelming darkness of night in the absence of electric lighting. ‘Night brutally robbed men and women of their vision, the most treasured of human senses. None of sight’s sister senses, not even hearing or touch, permitted individuals such mastery over their environs’ (8). In a world of perpetual light, we post-industrialists have lost the sense of terror within the pre-industrialist’s night. Continue reading

Review: ‘Radical America: Revolutionary, Dissident and Extremist Magazines’, The Second Network of American Periodical Studies Symposium

The legacies of these radical publications are still being felt, even as scholars continue to explore the origins, struggles, and issues surrounding a movement that, though it may appear in different places and at different times, often finds itself struggling with the same debates around politics, publication, and censorship wherever and whenever it might manifest. Continue reading